BVEP - Business Visits and Events Partnership

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BVEP Blog

Steady as we go?

By Simon Hughes, Vice Chair BVEP

Snap – and we’re off again into the hurly burly of a general election. In the statement that we drafted for the BVEP on the surprise decision taken to hold a general election the overarching theme was interpreted as ‘steady as we go’. Given that one of the stated reasons for this change of mind was to create a stronger sense of unity both across the nations and within Westminster itself, I’m reasonably confident that everyone in the event industry is united in hoping that the achievements and advances we’ve managed to secure over the last few years survive the inevitable turmoil that follows general elections.

Keen students of the body politic will remember that last time around we lost the SoS at the DCMS but kept our Minister. Those of you that share the vox pop reaction of surprised voters who responded to the news with pithy gems such as “You’re havin’ a laugh?” or “Oh my God – tell me you are joking!” will already be wondering what an SoS is and where the DCMS fits in. (Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.) Working with all our partners we have published a policy document that sets out the key concerns for the industry as we move towards the European exit door. We’ve seen the establishment of an Events Industry Board in response to the Business Tourism Strategy developed by the government and the re-engagement of Visit Britain in business visits development. Some good news in the tsunami of political news coverage that now lurks before us.

At a minimum making sure that we keep the focus and momentum on how events of all types fit into the broader economic picture for UK plc will be critical. Given the nature of general election campaigns there is always a mixed message for our industry. As central government shuts down during the formal purdah period before an election, large scale government events stop. Mind you I’ve not spotted many large scale government events recently. In their place across the country meetings, hustings, debates and gatherings of all types ramp up. Media outlets look for suitable venues to report from. PA hire companies go nuts. The backroom boys and girls start booking battle buses and hotel rooms, whilst desperately trying to remember the rules about what counts as local campaign expenditure. Bless them.

A good friend of mine, who has always claimed to be completely disinterested in politics, called me chortling with glee. He runs a print company and usually spends most of his time bemoaning the disappearance of print in our 24/7 digital world. Turns out he just loves elections. “Banners, flyers, manifestos, posters, pop-ups – you name it, they need it!” In an age when the unexpected has become the expected it’s always heartening to see how the power of live events becomes the default setting for creating memorable moments that provide the content for the digital world. The Prime Minister popped up in Bolton just after securing the vote in the Commons to proceed with the election; it was quite amusing trying figure out who looked more surprised – her or the audience hastily gathered to join in. Corbyn arrived in Croydon, grabbed a microphone and launched into a rhetorical rant that almost included the line “We shall fight them on the beaches.” Bless him.

In the spirit of balance and fairness I should of course now mention all the other party leaders that have spoken thus far – but quite frankly I really can’t be bothered. We’ve got 7 weeks of that kind of stuff heading our way and you don’t need me to add to the load at this early stage of the process. I do hope that you have a good general election, however it manifests itself in your world. The one thing that is certain is that we should cherish our democratic right to vote and that we still have the capacity to engage in the process in a measured, thoughtful and typically British way. Bless us all.